Raising Blood Pressure with Sugar

We’ve seen people get quite red in the face when they expound on the how toxic sugar is. Or on the necessity of taxing sugar sweetened beverages. So perhaps arguments about the subject of sugar are raising blood pressure. But no, contrary to a press release from the University of Toronto, sugar itself does not raise your blood pressure.

Correlating Sugar and Blood Pressure

The study this press release promoted was strictly observational. That is, it documented a correlation between sugar from different dietary sources and hypertension. It’s a systematic review and meta-analysis that found a ten percent greater risk of hypertension associated with sugar-sweetened beverages, for example. In contrast, it found a five to six percent reduction in hypertension associated with sugar in fruit and yogurt.

They did not, however, show that sugar itself has the effect of raising blood pressure.

Raising Blood Pressure

Of course, there are things that really will directly raise blood pressure. Certain drugs – like cold medicines with pseudoephedrine – do it. Eating too much salt can do it. And of course, vigorous exercise will raise your blood pressure. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Finally, unhealthy dietary patterns can have the effect of raising your blood pressure. That’s why following the DASH diet can be an effective way to lower your blood pressure. It’s not just one specific nutrient that does the trick. It’s a healthy overall pattern of eating.

Fuzzy Causality Thinking

This is why it’s not terribly helpful to demonize a single nutrient in isolation. It misinforms people. Finding a correlation between sugar and hypertension is not the same thing as showing that sugar causes hypertension. It might be that it contributes. It might be that diets with an excess of sugar have other features (like lots of salt) that are responsible.

Too much sugar is not a good thing by any means. But neither is misinformation. The press office at the University of Toronto should be careful not to spread it.

Click here for the study in Circulation.

Sphygmomanometer, photograph © Jasleen Kaur / flickr

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December 22, 2019

One Response to “Raising Blood Pressure with Sugar”

  1. December 22, 2019 at 11:07 am, David Brown said:

    Press release: Does sugar raise blood pressure? It depends where it comes from, U of T researchers say

    Another question. Does high linoleic acid intake lower blood pressure? Answer. It depends on whether one is diabetic or not. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/12/1825/htm

    Another question. Does high linoleic acid intake cause diabetes?
    Answer. That depends on sugar intake..

    Last question. Does high sugar intake cause diabetes?
    Answer. That depends on linoleic acid intake and genetic makeup. The combination of high fructose and high linoleic acid intake seems to be the worse than either alone. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150722144640.htm